When Charlie was a little boy he and his dad road around in his dad’s 56 T-Bird but after his dad passed away the old car sat in the garage for many years before Charlie decided to restore it. Charlie decided to do a frame off restoration so he built a rotisserie to give him easy access to all parts of the car after he removed the suspension. After spending a lot of time replacing sheet metal and doing some filler work Charlie did a little spraying and had a bad reaction to the chemicals so he brought the car to us for the work.


Charlie (right end) came with some friends from the T-Bird club to drop off the car and a bunch of parts.


When the car was delivered the lids and doors were bolted on but we removed them when it hit the shop so that we had easy access to all surfaces.


Charlie made the rotisserie so that it supported the convertible quite well from underneath.


The topside was braced between the pillars and across from the right to left.


To begin the body work we guide coated and blocked the filler that Charlie applied so that we had a good idea what was required. Most of the previously filled surfaces just needed a little polyester putty to make them right.

Guide Coat - Sanding Blocks - Filler Materials - Spreaders - Abrasives


As seen between this straight edge and the car there were some areas that needed the metal moved before the filler could be applied. This is an area above the passenger side rear wheel that we pushed from the inside using a hydraulic ram before we began applying filler.

Hydraulic Ram


As soon as we got the metal where we wanted it we flipped the car and primed the underside, wheelhouses, interior spaces and under the hood in order to prevent any oxidation.

Spray Guns - Breath Protection


As soon as the primer dried we used Fusor 800 Seam Sealer to seal all the areas inside and out where moisture could get trapped. We’ve tried a lot of other sealers over the years and found the Fusor products to work best for this application.

Seam Sealer


In the door jambs we used Fusor Self-Leveling Seam Sealer so that the seams would be water tight and also look great after they were painted.

Self-Leveling Seam Sealer


While some areas only needed tweaking there where others that needed to be reworked. Here we found that the fender side had way too much filler so we removed it and re-straightened the fender.

Grinding Tools and Materials


 

Even though we had easy access to both sides of the sheet metal we find it easier and better to use the stud welder to better control the straightening.

Stud Welders - Body Hammers


 

After straightening the metal we apply our filler by pressing it into the surface scratches then building it up to a level surface. The initial leveling is done while the filler is soft using a “cheese grater” blade.

Body Fillers - Cheese Graters - Spreaders


The fender had a lot of different shapes to tweak in order to make an invisible repair. It had a body line, a vent door hole and the general shape of the fender that all needed to be perfect. Needless to say this took several coats of filler to pull this all together as well as a variety of sanding blocks.

Dura-Block Assortment


 

Many areas of the car needed extensive filler work, I’d say that about 75% of the exterior surfaces were covered with filler in order to make them level.

Clean Sheets Mixing Boards


The lids needed quite a bit of help. Charlie had done a good job of replacing the rusted out sheet metal on the trunk lid but we still needed to do a lot of shaping to make the repair look good.


We stripped the exterior of both lids using the slow speed Makita with 80 grit sandpaper then finished the filler work on both.

Makita - Stripping Tools


The filler work on the trunk lid needed to be done while it was mounted on the car so that the fit could be judged properly. We made sure that Mike (our talented body man) had enough coffee to do the job properly.

The underside of the lid also needed quite a bit of filler work to hide the extent of the repairs.


After finishing the body work we needed to apply a texture coat before painting the trunk lid. Attention to details like this can make or break the job.

Masking Materials - Masking Tools


Once the body work is finished the surfaces are primed with “direct to metal” primer and a layer of “filler primer” is applied on top then “guide coated.”

 


We usually do our cutting in with the car color before sanding so that any overspray is sanded off in the process of block sanding the filler primer.


In most extensive restorations like this we usually will find some more needed body work as we block sand our guide coated filler primer. Here you can see a low area above the vent door opening. Unfortunately this became an extensive re-repair because of the shape of the fender in that area and because of the size of the low area.


I started out optimistically with a small spreader but soon surrendered to applying the filler with a large sheetrock spackling spreader in order to level the body line properly.


After the filler primer is block sanded the interior space are remasked the car is prepped for paint.


Because the color is a solid single stage color we decided to paint it in parts. If it had been a metallic color we would have installed the lids and doors in order to insure a perfect match.

Spray Guns


After painting, an inspection shows that our body work was looking good.

Paint Spraying Helpers


 

It took several days to strip, do the body work and paint the smaller parts but again, attention to detail, proves beneficial.


Depending on the hardener used and the temperature we usually start color sanding and polishing about 12 to 48 hours after the paint is applied. You can see how smooth and glossy the finished product is and it will stay that way if the paint materials are a high quality. It doesn’t pay to do this amount of work then apply inexpensive primers and top coat.

AirVantage Sander - Color Sanding Materials - Buffers - Polishing Compound


Once we’re finished polishing we reassemble and align the panels. Notice that the edge of the opening is taped to protect it during reassembly.


Ready for final reassembly.


Charlie and friends came back for a final inspection and to pick up the car.


Back at Charlie’s house some of the smaller emblems are installed before the body is dropped onto the frame. Sometimes these are easier to get to be before the major parts are put together.


Here some friends are helping Charlie lower the body onto it’s proper mounting position. Be careful guys!


Top and bottom just about together.

Because everything has been refurbished on the underside of the body and the the frame this coming together is quite delicate.


After all the bodywork and painting Charlie had his work cut out for him. All the gathering of parts and reassembly is a very important part of the restoration.

Here the dash is being reassembled in Charlie’s garage.


Once the dash is assembled and in the car it looks great.


The under-hood is lookin good.


Once Charlie got it all together it was backed out of the garage and it looks great. I’m particularly proud of how well the skirts, doors and lids fit.


There was a timing goal in mind during this assembly. The national T-Bird club was having their regional meet near Charlie and he finished the car in time for the meet. Needless to say there were some pretty nice birds on display.


Charlie didn't have the hard top reassembled so he showed it with the rag top.


Top up or top down, day or night it still looks great.


Ah yes, the crowning of the achievement.

This bird got a silver metal and Charlie said he may have gotten the gold if he had spent a little more time cleaning the car.

Congratulations Charlie.


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